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CCRI's New Century Scholar overcame eating disorder, hopes to open wellness center
May 5, 2015
Allison Contillo doesn't minimize her adversary. She knows that the bulimia that plagued her for 13 years before she was finally able to keep it in check will never be gone, but that hasn't stopped her from turning the struggle into forward momentum and, she hopes, eventually a career.
"It's something that I will always have to deal with, but now, I just don't entertain it," said Contillo, a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society who was recently named a 2015 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar. "I choose to live the life that I'm supposed to live."
It was in the process of overcoming her eating disorder that Contillo found her passion: nutrition and wellness. When she graduates from CCRI in May with an associate degree in General Studies and a 3.81 GPA, she will complete the culinary nutrition program at Johnson & Wales University. After she obtains her bachelor's degree, and later a Master of Business Administration, Contillo said that she wants to open up her own wellness center.
The North Scituate native started classes at CCRI in 2007, but took a detour to St. Joseph's College of Nursing shortly after. She realized that while nursing wasn't for her, the holistic aspects of nutrition and wellness were something that she could get behind, and learned as much as she could about how nutrition affects well-being.
"There's a correlation between a person's overall mental, physical and spiritual wellness to their frame of mind and diet. People don't acknowledge that what they put into their bodies – thoughts, food, chemicals, drugs and so on – has a direct effect on their health and well-being," she said.
"At my wellness center, I will teach people how to achieve and maintain their physical health with a nutritious diet, an exercise regime and adequate sleep. I will also teach classes on the importance of peace of mind. Negative thoughts can kill a person, but positive thinking can heal you. I will share my experience with negative thinking and teach classes on how to change it so they can have the life they dreamed of: The power is within all of us," she said, adding that much of her strength to conquer her inner demons came from God, and she hopes to share her testimony with others.
As she prepares to embark on the next step of her journey, Contillo said that the recognition along with the financial awards of the New Century Scholar designation, alongside recent Alumni Association Book Awards that she's received, have been powerful motivators.
"The support is amazing," she said. "When you are recognized and supported for doing well in school, it's not only encouraging, but it acts as validation that you're on the path. It provides you with the strength to press on toward achieving your dreams because you know that other people believe in you and your aspirations."
But it would be doing herself a disservice to say that her entire focus has been on hitting the books. Contillo knows that learning and leadership have their place outside the classroom, too, and has used her position with PTK to amass a valuable network, while spending her spare time immersed in charitable pursuits. She co-founded a charity called Jean Drive in 2013 to collect clothing, shoes and food to support residents at Amos House and Crossroads, saying of the experience: "I will continue to help in all the little ways that I can; it's not how much you give, but it's the thought and the act that counts."
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